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Robotic competition allows high school teams to face off against their peers

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Technology and creativity came together last weekend at the FIRST Robotics Waterloo Regional competition.

Two teams from Woolwich Township, one from Woodland Christian High School and the other from Elmira District Secondary School, competed with their robots, joining up with other teams to complete tasks throughout the two-day contest.

Nat Stroobosscher is on the CyberCavs, the WCHS team, and placed sixth overall. He says the competition was hard, but his team came through in the end.

“Competition for us went very well,” he said, adding that they were up against some strong challengers. “There are a lot of teams from Stoney Creek and St. Catharines that are very difficult to stand up to.”

The local competition is just one of the hundreds of regionals around the world. It took place on Apr. 1 and 2 at the University of Waterloo. The idea is to get young people, mainly high school students, to put their heads together to create a robot that can complete a given task. Once the task is announced, the teams are given six weeks to come up with a robot design and put it into action.

This year’s challenge was to get a 10-inch foam ball into a target eight feet off the ground. That may sound simple, but there were obstacles in the way. For every obstacle they conquered and task the teams completed, they were awarded points.

Teams from Woodside Christian High School in Breslau and Elmira District Secondary School put their robots to the test at the annual Waterloo Regional FIRST Robotics competition last weekend. [Submitted]
Teams from Woodside Christian High School in Breslau and Elmira District Secondary School put their robots to the test at the annual Waterloo Regional FIRST Robotics competition last weekend. [Submitted]
 

Evan Courtis, a member of the EDSS Lancerbots, says part of the challenge in this year’s competition was getting the robot built in time.

“The six-week build season, that was a huge challenge in itself, just getting the robot ready for competition,” he said, adding that there were also some obstacles his team had to overcome between rounds at the competition. “We had a decent amount of breakdowns and just a few problems with the robot in general between matches. There might only be 10 to 15 minutes between challenges to fix those problems and be ready for the next round.”

Although the Lancerbots didn’t place as highly as they wanted to – they ended up in 12th – Courtis says he is proud of the team and their high quality of teamwork.

“We really figured out what we had to do and got down and did it,” he said. “If there was something that had to be fixed, you couldn’t spend time talking about it. You just had to get down and do it.”

For the CyberCavs, Stroobosscher says one challenge they faced was trying to fit too many gizmos on the robot itself. They started big, and had to pare down their end product.

“We started with the idea of wanting to do everything the game required us to do and then as we got later in the season, we have to dial it back. There was a climbing aspect to the game where you had to climb a rung that was seven feet off the ground. We actually ran out of room on the robot for that mechanism, but we still did fairly well,” he said.

Both Stroobosscher and Courtis are graduating from their respective schools this year, but have some things they would like the teams to work on in their absence for next year’s regional competitions.

“I think that we can when they are designing the robot, to make the robot slightly more efficient, said Courtis. “Every year we have been able to complete the task, but it is just the speed we can complete the task at. So that is one thing I really hope to prioritized for next year – efficiency.”

Stroobosscher says he wants to see the WCHS CyberCavs keep using the resources around them to develop their time management skills – something he says took a big leap forward with this year’s team.

“I think this year, we established ourselves as a team and how to work properly as a team. There are tasks that we have previously just thrown time at, where as this year, we have been very organized and we had mentors that have really headed up departments rather than throwing jobs at people,” he said. “The team structure has been really good. They have all really helped us learn a structure and get things done.”

To check out the CyberCavs robot and to learn more about their team, visit www.cybercavs.com.

To learn more about the Lancerbots, visit www.4917.ca.

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